The poverty rate holds steady

The number of struggling Americans and the median US paycheck haven't changed since 2011. How surprising.

By Jason Notte Sep 17, 2013 4:00PM
Image: Man holding out empty pockets. (© Dougal Waters/Photodisc/Getty Images)If there's a war on poverty going on in the United States, someone may want to tap the nation's leaders on the shoulder and remind them to fight it.

A new report from the Census Bureau indicates that both the nation's poverty rate and real median household income went nowhere in 2012.


About 15% of U.S. citizens, or 46.5 million people, lived at or below the poverty line of $23,492 a year for a family of four. Those numbers weren't statistically different from the same data from 2011, but the poverty rate is 2.5 percentage points higher than it was in 2007.


Nearly 22% of those living in poverty are children below the age of 18. Those 16.1 million children comprise a population larger than that of Cuba, Belgium, Greece, Portugal or Sweden. It's roughly equivalent to the populations of Israel and Switzerland combined.


Meanwhile, the full count of Americans living in poverty is only slightly less than the entire population of Spain. That's scarcely surprising in a nation where 47.5 million people are on food stamps, but especially discouraging when the average U.S. paycheck also refuses to increase.


Median household income in the United States in 2012 was $51,017, which is still beneath the 2011 median of $51,100. Even that 2011 number followed two straight years of decline and is nowhere near the $56,080 average salary from 1999. In fact, last year's real median household income is still 8.7% lower than it was in 2007, just before the recession.


Don't expect Americans to even feign surprise at those numbers. The poverty rate hasn't improved in six years. Unemployment -- real unemployment, not just the number the Bureau of Labor Statistics floats out each month -- hovers around 11%. Even the college educated are working for minimum wage.


Even the Census Bureau's good news hasn't been great. The percentage of people without health insurance coverage declined to 15.4% in 2012 -- from 15.7% in 2011. However, the 48.0 million people without coverage in 2012 was not statistically different from the 48.6 million in 2011.


So does anyone have any reason for optimism or hope for recovery? Look west, where median household incomes have risen 3.2% since 2011 compared to stagnant growth everywhere else. Meanwhile, the poverty rate dropped from 15.8% in 2011 to 15.1% last year. That's still higher than the national average, but it still beats the alternative.


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113Comments
Sep 17, 2013 4:14PM
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The "war on poverty" has been going on for decades.  During that time, tens of trillions of dollars have been confiscated from the producers and given to the non-producers.  And the results?  There are far more poor people now than when the "war on poverty" started.  Government is not the answer to the problem, government is the problem.

Teach a man to fish and you end up with an independent, self-reliant citizen.  Keep giving a man a fish and you end up with a dependent, non-productive member of society who is easy to control and manipulate.
Sep 17, 2013 4:44PM
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The war on poverty has been derailed by the war on capitalism. Continue down this road and the USA will look like Bangladesh.
Sep 17, 2013 5:05PM
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There is a strong tendency to believe what you want to believe rather than what is really going on out there.    

85 to 95 % of the people receiving  government benefits ARE working full time jobs. That's a fact.  Look it up. Those with the financial power, keep More than their fair share of the profits in their own pockets while taxpayers cough up the difference because the actual workers are being dramatically underpaid.

Sep 17, 2013 4:33PM
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And the food stamp President gives away how much to other countries and wanted to start  another war!!! 
Sep 17, 2013 4:24PM
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Somehow the "war on poverty" has become "the great American giveaway".

Cut these monte hall giveaway programs to the bone, motivate people to go work instead of playing the beggar role...

Sep 17, 2013 6:11PM
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You've got some nerve. "War on Poverty", WHAT ABOUT "THE WAR ON THE MIDDLE CLASS"??? Anyone who looks at "wages vs. prices" can see that over the last 40 years the middle class has lost pace EVERY YEAR!!!!!! Thats 40 years in a row!!!!
Sep 17, 2013 4:12PM
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That's what happens with hand outs. They need a hand up.
Sep 17, 2013 5:39PM
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OBAMA AND DEMONCRATS LOVE POVERTY! THAT'S HOW THEY STAY IN POWER! BUYING

VOTES PROMISING FREE STUFF AND IT NEVER HELPS ANYBODY! NOW THE MIDDLE CLASS

IS SUFFERING CAUSE OF THE PROGRESSIVE AGENDAS THAT HAVE DESTROYED THE

ECONOMY AND MADE FOOD ENERGY GAS ETC SKYROCKET AND NOW OBAMA DEATHCARE

IS COMING! IT'S GOOD ENOUGH FOR US BUT NOT FOR THEM! IT'S ALWAYS THAT WAY

WITH DEMONCRATS! DO WHAT WE SAY NOT AS WE DO! BIG NANNY STATE SOCIALISM

NEVER WORKED AND ISN'T WORKING NOW! IT'S DESTROYING THIS COUNTRY! HOW THE

F CAN THE BLACK COMMUNITY CONTINUE TO FALL FOR THIS OBVIOUS LIE AND FAILURE

OF THE DEMONCRAT PARTY FOR DECADES??? WHAT HAS IT DONE BUT KEEP THEM DOWN

AND NOW DRAGGING DOWN HARD WORKING AMERICANS TOO WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT

THEY ALWAYS WANTED! EITHER YOUR ONE OF THE RICH OR POOR! NO MIDDLE!

Sep 17, 2013 4:43PM
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I see exactly where my paycheck is going.
I get to stand behind these welfare whores in the supermarket and watch them buy groceries on their food stamp card that would blow my weekly budget in an instant.

Sep 17, 2013 5:55PM
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We don't have time for a war on poverty.  We must get gun control, immigration reform, an abortion in every home, gay marriage, and climate change precautions moving forward!!!

 

Jobs?  Poverty?  That silly stuff is far beneath Obama's intellect to even dwell on.  The economy and jobs are already fixed.  He said so last night.

Sep 17, 2013 7:56PM
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We have an incompetent boob, the Silver Phuq Obama, as president. Things won't get better till that piece of azzwipe is gone.
Sep 17, 2013 6:26PM
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If a nation keeps a certain percent of the population un-educated, under-employed and low payed , the military will always have a steady source of volunteers. ALL politicians are guilty of this.
Sep 17, 2013 9:49PM
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It is not a war on poverty that is being fought, it is a war on the productive class in America.  Ever since FDR and the first steps to socialism a war has been being fought against those that create wealth.  Many create wealth through their wit, others through their connections, and still others through dumb luck.  Some share their wealth with others, some employ others, and some keep their earnings to themselves.  However, they earned it and the government since 1913 when a "progressive" income tax was enacted has been trying to take a larger share of their earnings and redistribute it to those that did not.  Why should we continue to tolerate such an abuse of power?  Why shouldn't every citizen of the US pay the same thing?  Do they not receive the same services from the government?  Actually they do not.  Those that are the most to receive more handouts from the government are more likely not to pay anything. 

 

Once in our history the great capitalist and entreprenuers were admired and people strived to follow in their footsteps.  Now a larger majority of the people are complaining about not receiving their "fair share" despite their ability to contribute their own equal share of the tax burden being spent on them.  We should strive for equal treatment under all laws and not hold a certain class of people as a protected class.  A progressive income tax says that one persons labor is worth more than anothers and the more productive individual should be punished for it by increasingly paying for the persons labor who is less productive and refuses to pay their own way.

 

To end the war on poverty we must restore freedom to the marketplace.  We need to eliminate such practices as the income tax, the minimum wage and collective bargaining.  The marketplace should determine the value of a persons labor not an arbitary government.   It is striking that we argue for equal treatment under the law in most areas except when it comes to income. 

 

If anything most liberals would argue that income should be equal regardless of the efforts of the individual because society owes them something.   No citizen owes another citizen anything without infringing on the libery and freedoms of the individual having to pay for the other's individual lifestyle and receiving nothing in return.

Sep 17, 2013 7:04PM
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This country gives every child twelve years to learn something that's of value to employers, but year in and year out, the message we pass on is that if you don't apply yourself, we'll make sure that you get something to eat and a place to sleep, and if you have kids, we'll take care of them too.

 

How can we expect to inspire children to learn a trade, or get a start on higher education in those precious years when they see what's waiting for them on the other side.

 

When someone with an education has a harder time making ends meet than someone who slept through class, we have to fix the model.

Sep 17, 2013 4:30PM
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man the economy in Alabama is total death its horrible im in retail sales nobody has any money ive gone from middle class to loser fast please help     lets impeach this arsss of a president please lord save us
Sep 17, 2013 6:07PM
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The war is not on poverty.  Obama has declared war on anyone with anything.  Hard work and any success is demonized.   So much for the American dream.  Who do you think pays for everything, the impoverished?  Let companies succeed and there will be more jobs and more raises and more, more, more

 

We need less government and more private (tax paying) enterprises.

Sep 17, 2013 5:29PM
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Everyone want's to blame the government, since when did the government agree to take care of you from cradle to grave...............slackers!!!
Sep 17, 2013 5:44PM
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Oh, I know enough about those unfortunate low wage earners because I rent to a number of them in my apartments, condos, townhomes and houses.  

 Inflation continues unabated while:

1. Wages have gone down or remained stagnant.

2. Workers are paying more for their once free / work subsidized benefits (health, 401, dental, etc.).

3. Schools (even public ones) are requiring more out of pocket costs for things that were once free.

4. Hours are being cut or the workloads increased as co-workers leave.

5. More workers are being injured on the job BECAUSE of the increased workload.

6. Business owners are taking a larger share of profits because they also want to retire soon.

 

I know from my evictions reported by my property managers the causes of their plight and it's not pretty, but hey....it's capitalism.

Sep 18, 2013 12:08PM
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The number of struggling Americans and the median US paycheck haven't changed since 2011. How surprising.

How can this possibly be?  We have had the savior in the white house since 2009 and he told us the recession was over.  

Who is the bigger fool, the fool in charge or the fools who follow a fool?
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